Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

visit, he was sitting in an attitude green ;” and at another, “ in trim of much attention to a drawing, gardens." When we are willing to pinned up near the fire-place; and escape from the tedium of uniforanother gentleman, whom I after- mity, nature and accident supply wards found to be a Mr. Varlet, a numberless varieties, which we shall miniature painter, who has since for the most part vainly strive to settled at Bath, had evidently been heighten and improve. It is too in conversation with him about much to say, that we will use the My friend begged leave to ask whom face of the country as the painter it was intended to represent. Mr. does his canvas; Mason hesitated, and looked earnest

Take thy plastic spade, ly at Mr. Varlet. I could not resist It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants, (though I instantly felt a wish to have They are thy colours. been silent) saying, surely from the The analogy can scarcely hold strong likeness it must be the late Mr. farther than in a parterre; and even Gray. Mr. Mason at once certainly there very imperfectly. Mason could forgave the intrusion, by asking my not bear to see his own system opinion as to his fears of having ca- pushed to that excess into which it ricatured his poor friend. The fea- naturally led; and bitterly resented tures were certainly softened down, the attempts made by the advocates previously to the engraving." *-Nic of the picturesque, to introduce into chols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. ix. his landscapes more factitious wildp. 718.

ness than he intended. In the next year, 1772, appeared In 1783, he published a Translathe first book of the English Garden. tion from the Latin of Du Fresnoy's The other three followed separately Art of Painting, in which the prein 1777, 1779, and 1782. The very cepts are more capable of being retitle of this poem was enough to in- duced to practice. He had underduce a suspicion, that the art which taken the task when young, partly it taught (if art it can be called) as an exercise in versification, and was not founded on general and per- partly to fix on his mind the prinmanent principles. It was rather ciples of an art in which he had a mode which the taste of the time himself some skill. Sir Joshua Reyand country had rendered prevalent, nolds, having desired to see it, added and which the love of novelty is al. some notes, and induced him to reready supplanting. In the neigh- vise and publish it. The artist found bourhood of those buildings which in it the theory of ideal beauty, man constructs for use or magnifi- which had been taught him by Zacence, there is no reason why he chary Mudge, from the writings of should prefer irregularity to order, Plato, and which enabled him to or dispose his paths in curved lines, rise above the mere mechanism of his rather than in straight. Homer, predecessors. That Mason's version when he describes the cavern of Ca- surpasses the original, is not saying lypso, covers it with a vine, and much in its praise. In some prefascatters the alder, the poplar, and tory lines addressed to Reynolds, he the cypress, without any symmetry has described the character of Dryabout it; but near the palace of den with much happiness. Alcinous he lays out the garden by The last poem which he published the rule and compass. Our first pa- separately, was a Secular Ode on the rents in Paradise, are placed by Mil- Revolution in 1688. It was formal ton amidst

and vapid; but sufficed to show that A happy rural seat of various view;

time, though it had checked “the ly

ric rapture,” had left him his ardour but let the same poet represent him- in the cause of freedom. Like the two self in his pensive or his cheerful leaders of the opposite parties, Pitt moods, and he is at one time walk- and Fox, he hailed with glad voice ing “ by hedge-row elms on hillocks the dawn of French liberty. It was

" It is said, that the best likeness of Gray is to be found in the figure of Scipio, in an engraving for the edition of Gil Blas, printed at Amsterdam, 1735, vol. iv. p. 94.Sec Mr. Mitford's Gray, vol. i. Ixxxi. A copy of this figure would be acceptable to many of Gray's admirers.

man."

might, he was rich enough, and had to associate for parliamentary rean annual income of about fifteen form, he took an active part in ashundred pounds at his death. Lord sisting their deliberations, and wrote Orford says of him somewhere in his several patriotic manifestos. In the letters, that he intended to have re- same year appeared his Ode to the fused a bishopric if it had been offer- Naval Officers of Great Britain, on ed him. He might have spared him- the trial of Admiral Keppel, in which self the pains of coming to this reso- the poetry is strangled by the polilution ; for mitres, “ though they fell tics. His harp was in better tune, on many a critic's head," and on that when, in 1782, an Ode to Mr. Pitt of his friend Hurd among the rest, declared the hopes he had conceived did not seem adapted to the brows of of the son of Chatham ; for like many a poet. When the death of Cibber others, who espoused the cause of had made the laurel vacant, he was freedom, he had ranged himself informed that “ being in orders he among the partizans of the youthful was thought merely on that account statesman, who was then doing all less eligible for the office than a lay- he could to persuade others, as he

A reason," said he, “so had no doubt persuaded himself, that politely put, I was glad to hear as- he was one of the number. signed ; and if I had thought it In the mean time Gray, who, if he a weak one, they who know me will had lived longer, might, perhaps, readily believe that I am the last have restrained him from mixing in man in the world who would have this turmoil, was no more. The attempted to controvert it.” Of the office which he performed of biolaurel, he probably was not more am- grapher, or rather of editor, for his bitious than of the mitre; though he deceased friend, has given us one of was still so obstinate as to believe the most delightful books in its kind that he might unite the characters that our language can boast. It is of a clerk and a poet, to which he just that this acknowledgment should would fain have superadded that of be made to Mason, although Mr. a statist also. Caractacus, another Mathias has recently added many tragedy on the ancient plan, but others of Gray's most valuable pawhich made a better figure on the pers, which his former editor was stage, appeared in 1759 ; and in scarcely scholar enough to estimate 1762, three elegies. In 1769, Harris as they deserved; and Mr. Mitford heard him preach at St. James's early has shown us, that some omissions, prayers, and give a fling at the and perhaps some alterations, were French for the invasion of Corsica. unnecessarily made by him in the Thus politics, added his hearer, have letters themselves. As to

the entered the sanctuary. The sermon task which the latter of these genis the sixth in his printed collection. tlemen imposed on himself, few A fling at the Frerich was at all times will think that every passage which a favourite topic with him. In the he has admitted, though there be discourse delivered before George III. nothing in any to detract from the on the Sunday preceding his Corona- real worth of Gray, could have been tion, he has stretched the text a little made public consistently with those that he may take occasion to descant sacred feelings of regard for his meon the blessings of civil liberty, and mory by which the mind of Mason has quoted Montesquieu's opinion of was impressed, and that reluctance the British government. In praising which he must have had to conquer, our religious toleration, he is careful before he resolved on the publication to justify our exception of the church at all. The following extract from of Rome from the general indulgence. a letter, written by the Rev. Edward Nor was it in the pulpit only that he Jones, brings us into the presence of acted the politician. He was one of Mason, and almost to an acquaintthose, as we are told in the Bio- ance with his thoughts at this time, graphical Dictionary, who thought and on this occasion. “ Being at the decision of Parliament on the York in September 1771,” (Gray Middlesex election a violation of died on the thirtieth of July precedthe rights of the people; and ing,) “ I was introduced to Mr. Mawhen the counties began, in 1779, son, then in residence. On my first

p. 718.

visit, he was sitting in an attitude green;" and at another, “in trim of much attention to a drawing, gardens." When we are willing to pinned up near the fire-place; and escape from the tedium of uniforanother gentleman, whom I after- mity, nature and accident supply wards found to be a Mr. Varlet, a numberless varieties, which we shall miniature painter, who has since for the most part vainly strive to settled at Bath, had evidently been heighten and improve. It is too in conversation with him about it. much to say, that we will use the My friend begged leave to ask whom face of the country as the painter it was intended to represent. Mr. does his canvas; Mason hesitated, and looked earnest

Take thy plastic spade, ly at Mr. Varlet. I could not resist It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants, (though I instantly felt a wish to have They are thy colours. been silent) saying, surely from the The analogy can scarcely hold strong likeness it must be the late Mr. farther than in a parterre; and even Gray. Mr. Mason at once certainly there very imperfectly. Mason could forgave the intrusion, by asking my not bear to see his own system opinion as to his fears of having ca- pushed to that excess into which it ricatured his poor friend. The fea- naturally led; and bitterly resented tures were certainly softened down, the attempts made by the advocates previously to the engraving." -Nic of the picturesque, to introduce into chols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. ix. his landscapes more factitious wild

ness than he intended. In the next year, 1772, appeared In 1783, he published a Translathe first book of the English Garden. tion from the Latin of Du Fresnoy's The other three followed separately Art of Painting, in which the prein 1777, 1779, and 1782. The very cepts are more capable of being retitle of this poem was enough to in- duced to practice. He had underduce a suspicion, that the art which taken the task when young, partly it taught (if art it can be called) as an exercise in versification, and was not founded on general and per- partly to fix on his mind the prinmanent principles. It was rather ciples of an art in which he had a mode which the taste of the time himself some skill. Sir Joshua Reyand country had rendered prevalent, nolds, having desired to see it, added and which the love of novelty is al- some notes, and induced him to reready supplanting. In the neigh- vise and publish it. The artist found bourhood of those buildings which in it the theory of ideal beauty, man constructs for use or magnifi- which had been taught him by Zacence, there is no reason why he chary Mudge, from the writings of should prefer irregularity to order, Plató, and which enabled him to or dispose his paths in curved lines, rise above the mere mechanism of his rather than in straight. Homer, predecessors. That Mason's version when he describes the cavern of Ca- surpasses the original, is not saying lypso, covers it with a vine, and much in its praise. In some prefascatters the alder, the poplar, and tory lines addressed to Reynolds, he the cypress, without any symmetry has described the character of Dryabout it; but near the palace of den with much happiness. Alcinous he lays out the garden by The last poem which he published the rule and compass. Our first pa- separately, was a Secular Ode on the rents in Paradise, are placed by Mil- Revolution in 1688. It was formal ton amidst

and vapid; but sufficed to show that A happy rural seat of various view;

time, though it had checked “the ly

ric rapture," had left him his ardour but let the same poet represent him- in the cause of freedom. Like the two self in his pensive or his cheerful leaders of the opposite parties, Pitt moods, and he is at one time walk, and Fox, he hailed with glad voice ing “ by hedge-row elms on hillocks the dawn of French liberty. It was

* It is said that the best likeness of Gray is to be found in the figure of Scipio, in an engraving for the edition of Gil Blas, printed at Amsterdam, 1735, vol. iv. p. 94.Sec Mr. Mitford's Gray, vol. i. lxxxi. A copy of this figure would be acceptable to many of Gray's admirers.

was

only for the gifted eye of Burke to our churches. In speaking of a wind foresee the storm that was impend- instrument, which William of Malmsing.

bury seems to describe as being acted At the same time he recommended on by the vapour arising from hot the cause of the enslaved negroes from water, he has unfortunately gone the pulpit. The abolition of the out of his way to ridicule the proslave trade was one of the few po- jected invention of the steam-boat by litical subjects the introduction of Lord Stanhope. The atrocities comwhich seemed to be allowable in that mitted during the fury of the French place. In 1788, appeared also his revolution had so entirely cured him Memoirs of William Whitehead, at- of his predilection for the popular tached to the posthumous works of part of our government, that he could that writer ; a piece of biography, not resist the opportunity, however as little to be compared in interest ill-timed, of casting a slur on this to the former, as Whitehead himself nobleman, who accused of can be compared to Gray.

being over-partial to it. In the third His old age glided on in solitude essay, on Parochial Psalmody, he and peace amid his favourite pur- gives the preference to Merrick's suits, at his rectory of Aston, where weak and affected version over the he had taught his two acres of gar- two other translations that are used den to command the inequalities of in our churches. The late Bishop « hill and dale," and to combine Horsley, in his Commentary on the “ use with beauty.” The sonnet in Psalms, was, I believe, the first who which he dedicated his poems to his was hardy enough to claim that palm patron, the Earl of Holdernesse, de- for Sternhold, to which, with all its scribes in his best manner the hap- awkwardness, his rude vigour enpiness he enjoyed in this retreat. He titles him. was not long permitted to add to his When he comes to speak of Chrisother pleasures the comforts of a tianizing our hymns, the apprehenconnubial life. In 1765, he had mar- sion which he expresses of deviating ried Mary, daughter of William from the present practice of our estaShermon, Esq., of Kingston-upon- blishment seems to have restrained Hull, who in two years left him a him from saying something which he widower. Her epitaph is one of would otherwise have said. The those little poems to which we can question surely is not so much, what always return with a melancholy the practice of our present establishpleasure, I have heard that this ment is, as what that of the first lady had so little regard for the art Christians was. There is, perhaps, in which her husband excelled, that no alteration in our service that could on his presenting her with a copy of be made with better effect than this, verses, after the wedding was over, provided it were made with as great she crumpled them up and put them caution as its importance demands. into her pocket unread. When he His death, which was at last sudhad entered his seventieth year, den, was caused by a hurt on his Hurd, who had been his first friend, shin, that happened when he was and the faithful monitor of his stu- stepping out of his carriage. On the dies from youth, confined him “to a Sunday (two days after) he felt so sonnet once a year, or so ;” warning little inconvenience from the accident him, that "

age, like infancy, should as to officiate in his church at Aston. forbear to play with pointed tools.” But on the next Wednesday, the He had more latitude allowed in 7th of April, 1797, a rapid mortiprose ; for in 1795 he published fication brought him to his grave. Essays Historical and Critical on His monument, of which Bacon was English Church Music. In the former the sculptor, is placed in Westminpart of his subject, he is said, by ster Abbey, near that of Gray, with those who have the best means of the following inscription :knowing, to be well informed and

Optimo Viro accurate ; but in the latter to err on

Gulielmo Mason, A.M. the side of a dry simplicity, which, in

Si quis alius the present refined state of the art,

Cuito, Casto, Pio it would not answer any good pur

Ob. 7. Apr. 1797. pose to introduce into the music of

Portar,

Sacrum.

Æt. 72,

Mason is reported to have been bers, and of some other anonymous ugly in his person. His portrait, by satires which have been imputed to Reynolds, gives to features, ill-form- him, he must have felt Hayley's ined and gross, an expression of intel- tended compliment as a severe religence and benignity. In the latter proach: part of life, his character appears to have undergone a greater change. The reptile beauties of invenom'd song.

Sublimer Mason ! not to thee belong from its primitive openness and good nature, than mere time and expe- Of the Epistle, when it was rerience of the world should have marked, in the hearing of Thomas wrought in it. Perhaps this was Warton, that it had more energy nothing more than a slight perversion than could have been expected from which he had contracted in the school Walpole, to whom others ascribed it, of Warburton. What was a coarse Warton remarked that it might have arrogance in the master himself, as- been written by Walpole, and bucksumed the form of nicety and super- ramed by Mason. Indeed, it is not ciliousness in the less confident and unlikely that one supplied the vebetter regulated tempers of Mason nom, and the other spotted the snake. and Hurd. His harmless vanity In a letter of expostulation to Warcleaved to him longer. As a proof ton, Mason did not go the length of of this, it is related that, several years disclaiming the satire, though he after the publication of Isis, when was angry enough that it should be he was travelling through Oxford, laid at his door. I have heard that and happened to cross over Magda- he received with much apathy the len Bridge at a late hour of the even- praises offered him by Hayley, in the ing, he turned round to a friend who Essay on Epic Poetry. He has rewas riding with him, and remarked marked, “ that if rhyme does not that it was luckily grown dusk, for condense the sense, which passes they should enter the University un- through its vehicle, it ceases to be observed. When his friend, with good, either as verse or rhyme.” some surprise, inquired into the rea- This rule is laid down too broadly. son of this caution; what, (said he) His own practice was not always do you not remember my Isis ? consonant with it, as Hayley's never

He was very sensible to the an- With Darwin's poetry, it is noyance of the periodical critics, said that he was much pleased. which Gray was too philosophical or His way of composing, as we too proud to regard otherwise than learn from Gray's remarks upon his as matter of amusement. He was poems, was to cast down his first the butt for a long line of satirists or thoughts carelessly, and at large, and lampooners. Churchill, Lloyd, Col- then clip them here and there at leiman, the author of the Probationary sure. « This method,” as his friend Odes, and, if I remember right, observed, “ will leave behind it a Paul Whitehead and Wolcot, all le- laxity, a diffuseness. The force of a veled their shafts at him in turn. In thought otherwise well-invented, the Probationary Odes, his pecu- well-turned, and well-placed) is often liarities were well caught: when the weakened by it.” He might have writer of these pages repeated some added, that it is apt to give to poetry of the lines in which he was imi- the air of declamation. tated, to Anna Seward, whose ad- Mason wished to join what he miration of Mason is recorded in her considered the correctness of Pope letters, she observed, that what was with the high imaginative power of meant for a burlesque was in itself Milton, and the lavish colouring of excellent. There is reason to sup- Spenser. In the attempt to unite pose that he sometimes indulged qualities so heterogeneous, the effect himself in the same licence under of each is in a great measure lost, which he suffered from others. If and little better than a caput morhe was indeed the author of the He- tuum remains. With all his praises roic Epistle to Sir William Cham- of simplicity, he is generally much

was.

* Essays on English Church Music, Mason's Works, vol. iii. p. 370.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »